Meditation-relaxation therapy may offer escape from the terror of sleep paralysis


13-08-2020
  The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli, 1781  Credit: Wikipedia

Sleep paralysis – a condition thought to explain a number of mysterious experiences including alleged cases of alien abduction and demonic night-time visits – could be treated using a technique of meditation-relaxation, suggests a pilot study published today.

Sleep paralysis is a state involving paralysis of the skeletal muscles that occurs at the onset of sleep or just before waking. While temporarily immobilised, the individual is acutely aware of their surroundings. People who experience the phenomenon often report being terrorised by dangerous bedroom intruders, often reaching for supernatural explanations such as ghosts, demons and even alien abduction. Unsurprisingly, it can be a terrifying experience.

As many as one in five people experiences sleep paralysis, which may be triggered by sleep deprivation, and is more frequent in psychiatric conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder. It is also common in narcolepsy, a sleep disorder involving excessive daytime sleepiness and sudden loss of muscle control.

Despite the condition being known about for some time, to date there are no empirically-based treatments or published clinical trials for the condition.

Today, in the journal Frontiers in Neurology, a team of researchers report a pilot study of meditation-relaxation therapy involving 10 patients with narcolepsy, all of whom experience sleep paralysis.

The therapy was originally developed by Dr Baland Jalal from the Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge. The current study was led by Dr Jalal and conducted in collaboration with Dr Giuseppe Plazzi’s group at the Department of Biomedical and Neuromotor Sciences, University of Bologna/IRCCS Istituto delle Scienze Neurologiche di Bologna, Italy.

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Image: The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli, 1781

Credit: Wikipedia

Reproduced courtesy of the University of Cambridge

 

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University of Cambridge (cam.ac.uk)